October 26, 2020

Literature: the importance of emotional depth

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This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward

In the handful of articles that I had the pleasure of writing for The Eagle, the topic’s have been overwhelmingly scientific in nature. I love writing about the universe; from the grandeur of enormously powerful quasars to the strikingly beautiful nature of atoms. As I was recently reading the biography of Neals Bohr, a revolutionary physicist and a father of modern quantum physics, I combed through his remarks on the overwhelming potential of the atom.
The atom’s existence is a duality of potential, within itself it holds the power to build anything and everything in the known universe, from super massive red giant stars to my daughter’s favorite sandbox toy. Conversely the atom wields unimaginable power, releasing the contents into pure energy can bring about pain, misery and death to any and all in its path. Two sides of the same coin, a disturbing reality that admittedly dampened my mood for some time.
The beginning of each new year brings with it that two-sided coin, carrying the potential to make life wondrous and remarkable as well as chaotic and unbearable. Personally, I’ve experienced both sides in short order, each fighting for supremacy over the events of that year. Sometimes December comes with chaos winning the fight while my more enjoyable years have far outnumbered those hobbled by grief.
For those who have followed my science articles, they will be familiar with the love I have for my children, those living as well as my son who left life before he had the chance to begin. Despite the triumphs I encounter, the events of losing him rest heavily on my mind, and at times I struggle to view the future’s potential in full color. I continued to struggle to understand how life could regain any depth after experiencing something so miserably painful. The lows were just too powerful to make enjoying the highs a reality. Recently in my readings I came across a story that changed my perspective.
“Walt Disney: The Triumph of The American Imagination” by Neal Gabler is a labor-intensive study of the man I named my oldest child after. Within its chapters is a section detailing the creation of the classic movie “Fantasia” a cooperative project envisioned by Disney and composed by Leopold Stokowski.
During its early period as Disney sat in a sound room with Stokowski pouring over hours of classical music, attempting to string together pieces, the music progressed through their melodies when Disney would lean over and turn the volume up as the instruments played quietly. Sometime after the progression of dramatic pieces rose and fell in volume followed by Disney’s incessant volume adjustments Stokowski leapt up and shouted, “Walt, the quiet pieces are meant to be quiet!” There it was, “the quiet pieces are meant to be quiet.”
The pain I felt at the loss of my son should hurt. The painful times are meant to be such, taking from them the depth of emotions that paint the canvas of my life, while the joyful times are meant to be joyful providing their hues to the work. The duality of emotions like the atom carry with them the potential to make our life a symphonic spectrum of depth, not unlike a classical masterpiece. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “It’s not the length of life, but the depth.” The quiet parts… are meant to be.. quiet.

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